Families in New Jersey and nationwide might consider their pets to be members of their families. Many pets are loved as though they are additional children. If a couple decides to split, controversy might arise over who gets to keep the pet during the divorce proceedings and after they are finalized.
Just because an individual was the primary owner of a pet before his or her marriage does not necessarily mean that that same individual will get to keep the pet after the divorce. By law, pets are considered marital property just like cars, real estate, furniture and other assets. Therefore, the guidelines for who gets the pet are the same as those for other marital property items in asset division.
Because some courts are starting to modernize and consider the well-being of pets, they are considering the best interests of the pets and any children involved when deciding custody. Questions that might be asked at such times are who has the most time to devote to the pet, who has more space to accommodate the pet and who is retaining custody of any children who are emotionally attached the pet.
Individuals may submit testimony and evidence to the court that states why they should get to keep their pets, such as if the other spouse has a history of abuse, neglects the pet or does not have a flexible enough schedule to make sure that the pet is taken care of. An increasing number of pet custody cases going before the courts, and couples who can’t come to terms on the issue may have to attain legal aid.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Who Gets the Family Dog After Divorce?“, Nancy Kay, November 10, 2013